Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor

stress depressed anxiety

Last Updated February 21st, 2019

We all go through stress many times a day, but is your stress making you more productive or burning you out?

Read on to find out

A looming work deadline is making your heart pound faster, as you guzzle down mugs of coffee down your throat to remain alert.

The fact that you just might fail your end semester exams is giving your sleepless nights.

The responsibilities of becoming a new parent while juggling your job are exploding your peace and calm.

The recent death of a closed one has made it difficult for you to cope up with the limitless grief.

Sometimes, out of no reason, you feel absolutely incapable of picking yourself from the bed and starting your day.

A failed marriage, accumulating debts, divorce, heartbreak, getting fired from a job – there is no end to the list of things that could go wrong with our lives. Things which have a profound influence on our overall mental well-being. This could include career, money, love and relationships, new job, handling finances so and so forth.

The modern lifestyle is replete with material luxury. Yet, tragically enough, it is also overflowing with elements which can wreak havoc on our peace of mind.

It’s (NOT) all in your head

How many times have you been told it’s all in your head every time you wanted to explain your state of mind?

Called attention-seeking or lazy or weak whenever you tried to tell people what you go through?

How many have actually understood or even acknowledged this feeling mental decapitation?

It can be frustrating when people don’t treat or acknowledge mental illnesses are real illnesses.

You get a chest pain; you rush to the ER. If you get a stomach cramp, there are 5 people around you giving passing you antacids.

But the moment you start speaking about mental disability or disorders, people start looking at you with pity and talk behind your back how “crazy” you are going.

This gross injustice and stigma associated with mental health issues often discourage people with real issues to talk about them in the open.

And when it comes to any illness, be it physical or mental, not recognizing it in the first place and/or treating it as taboo has been of little help.

Let’s begin with the recent statistics

stress, anxiety, depression

  • What comes 4th in the list of most significant cause of suffering and disability right after cardiac conditions, cancer, and road accidents? It’s Depression.
  • The causes of depression range from social to psychological to biological. Genetics, certain diseases, hormones, substance abuse, and trauma can lead to this condition.
  • Anxiety disorder affects roughly 18% of the entire American population. That’s more than 40 million adults.
  • Even though anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36% patients receive any treatment for it.
  • Eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse, adult ADHD – these anxiety-related disorders affect millions worldwide.
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression are not the same. Stress is usually the cause of anxiety. Prolonged anxiety is often the precursor to depression.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Debunking the myths

Stress

good and bad stress

Let us start with the basics.

Stress is our very primal “fight-or-flight” response to a situation such as a bull attacking you or having an all-important job interview.

Its basic purpose was to make you alert and focussed with a sudden surge of energy to meet the demands of the situation.

This happens by the release of stress hormones in your body– cortisol and adrenaline.

Our bodies are designed to tolerate momentary occurrences of a stressful occasion.

Yet our modern lifestyle creates situations wherein we are bonded by prolonged stress. This kind of stress keeps you up all night or causes restless sleep in the least. Chronic stress causes issues such as hypertension, weakened immune system, lower fertility, and heart problems.

The most significant characteristic of stress is that it prevails till the stress-causing agent exists.

Anxiety

anxiety disorder

When you take away this stressor, and yet you experience the symptoms of stress, what you are suffering from is Anxiety.

In simple words, anxiety the presence of stress-like feelings in the absence of stressors.

Your days are marked by unexplained feelings of uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or even panic.

Generally, anxious people feel this uneasy “queasiness” in the pit of their stomach.

Common causes of anxious behavior could be dwindling finances or career.

People with anxiety disorder often face restlessness and fatigue, low concentration, muscle tension, and sleep disorders.

Anxiety-driven people are irritable at times.

They can also experience unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are periods of a sudden surge of fear.

The panic attacks also include some typical physical symptoms: Rapid heartbeat, palpitations, shivering, cold sweats, hyperventilation or shortness of breath, and feeling of having no control over self.

Depression

causes of depression

Commonly confused with sadness, depression is a mental condition with far more severe implications.

While it is true that some level of sadness does prevail amongst patients with depression, many of them may not even have this feeling at all.

The classic definition of depression is “a mood disorder where a person experiences persistent low mood, sadness, and a perpetual feeling of emptiness”.

A depressed individual is often hopeless and pessimistic. You might be able to spot a depressed person if you can observe some typical behavior changes.

These could include that person’s loss of interest in erstwhile pleasurable activities, persistent fatigue, recurring thoughts of suicide, sudden appetite and weight changes, and trouble in sleeping.

Depression might be a result of genetic or environmental factors (or a combination of both).

Some more facts you should be aware of…

panic attack

  • Women are twice as much likely to be affected by anxiety than men. This is because of two distinct reasons.
  • Firstly, the “fight-or-flight” response in women lingers for a longer duration of time (estrogen and progesterone at play here).
  • Secondly, women are at a greater risk to be at the receiving end of abuse (physical and sexual). And abuse has strong links to anxiety.
  • Some studies also suggest that women’s brains do not process serotonin as well as men’s brains which might be linked to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Stress causes changes in the human body neurochemicals level. It leads to higher accumulation of fats in the abdominal region and can also cause enlargement of individual fat cells. It can worsen your acne and could cause hair loss.
  • In growing children, the presence of prolonged stress can weaken the pituitary gland leading to growth defects.
  • Anxiety disorder is actually an umbrella term that is used to describe numerous condition such as – General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Phobic Disorders, and Separation Anxiety.

Did you know about these?

  • Short–term or recent life stresses are less likely to cause depression. Depression usually culminates as a result of long-term enduring difficulties such as living in an abusive relationship, extended periods of unemployment, isolation from others and many more.
  • Nevertheless, recent factors may trigger such a response if an individual has an existing risk factor in his/her life.
  • Managing long-term chronic illnesses or pain could be the reason for the onset of depression.
  • Moreover,chronically depressed individuals are more likely to suffer from infections and allergies. This is because of their weakened immune system.
  • 300 million – this is the number of people who are suffering from depression across the globe. According to WHO, by 2030 depression will become one of the most leading causes of disability, second only to HIV/AIDS.
  • While many creative geniuses have said be suffering from mental illnesses such as depression (Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Beethoven, John Lennon, Slyvia Plath etc), having a mental illness doesn’t make you creative. Conversely, receiving a treatment for the same will not alter your existing creativity skills.

How do you deal with it all?

It is important to note at this point that one should ALWAYS try to seek professional/ licensed medical help for treating these conditions. Failure to do so would make matters even worse. These conditions alter the way your entire body functions.

So, in addition to peace of mind, you are also likely to suffer from severe bodily complications. Stress, anxiety, and depression are not states of mind (or a phase of life) which an individual has to gradually get over.

As a matter of fact,these are real and actual medical conditions which need a proper diagnosis, therapy, and medications. This should be the first protocol for managing the condition.

According to ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

Making these small changes in your life can have a positive effect on your state and accelerate the treatment procedure

  • Write a journal regularly. Make a note of things/ events that trigger your stress or anxiety attacks.
  • Do not engage in any kind of substance abuse. These worsen your body’s entire neurochemical balance which adds to the disorder. Limit your intake of stimulants such as caffeine and depressants such as alcohol.
  • Moreover,try to get good sleep. Sleep is restorative for your brain and your entire body. 8 hours of deep sleep could work wonders in lowering your cortisol levels.
  • Similarly,exercises, especially aerobic exercises, have an anti-depressant effect on your mind. 20-40 minutes of walking in fresh air for 4 days per week has actually proven to alleviate symptoms of depression.
  • ALso,individuals who partake regularly in long-term fitness programs were less likely to develop symptoms of depression than those who didn’t. Still, this alone shouldn’t be taken as the only factor while diagnosing if a person can fall a victim to depression or not.
  • Likewise,volunteering and engaging in altruistic activities can decrease your stress levels, scientists believe. These activities boost our serotonin levels naturally and thus offer an optimum break from stress and anxiety.

Remember this…

It is easy to fall into the trap of binge-drinking, smoking, illicit use of drugs, and “comfort-eating” if you are experiencing any of the symptoms.

But remember, these are not healthy coping mechanisms.

These can collectively push you deeper into the pits of stress, anxiety, and depression.

The best method to counter these issues is to address them as you would do to a physical ailment. Seek help, talk to people around you, and try to build a strong and supporting social circle.

Mental illnesses are not a taboo.

Don’t be a silent sufferer.


TL;DR?

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